Dutch Mining Museum Heerlen
A department store disguised as a museum or a museum disguised as a department store? In the building of the once famous Kneepkens department store in Heerlen, the new Dutch Mining Museum opened to the public on May 1. Tinker imagineers developed an innovative museum concept together with the museum. The visitor imagines himself in the department store of the time and ‘shops’ through the museum. The four floors tell the unique story of the rise, glory days and decline of coal mining in South Limburg and its impact on society. A hidden history – hidden deep underground – which the new museum brings back to life.
In the Dutch Mining Museum all facets of the colorful mining past are highlighted. The big story starts with coal and describes the broad history of mining in the Eastern and Western Mining Region. The visitor experiences the forgotten stories of hard work, successes, solidarity and the dark side of this exhausting industry. The four floors each have their own theme based on colors. Visitors begin at Black, where they discover the story of coal and the miner. The second floor, Gold, reflects almost tangibly the prosperity that the coal industry brought to the Mining District. The second floor is Gray and shows the frightening flip side of the coin, such as the unhealthy work environment and the disastrous social consequences of the mine closure. The top floor is called Color and takes the visitor through the transition and colorful future of the Mining Region.
Former Department Store Kneepkens
The presentation of the objects is based on the original function of the monumental location: the department store Kneepkens at Doctor Poelsstraat 29 in the city center. A logical location, since Heerlen had the most department stores in the Netherlands during the heyday of coal mining in the mid-1950s. Because of this booming industry there were many miners who had money to spend. This department store was created for and by the miners. Hardly anyone remembers that at the time, under this building, this city and the region was the largest industrial area in the Netherlands. The building from 1939 is a national monument by the renowned architect Frits Peutz and is also called “Small Glass Palace” because of the similarities with the famous Glass Palace that he designed earlier.
The exhibition design is by Tinker imagineers, in collaboration with Peter Beckers. Its realization was achieved with local parties. The result is not a museum in the traditional sense of the word. The focus is on the many stories of a past that reaches far beyond the city and the region.
Dutch Mining Museum
Doctor Poelsstraat 29, Heerlen
Photos: Mike Bink